As a parent, you are one of your child’s primary role models. It’s up to you to raise your son to treat women with respect and dignity or your daughter to have confidence, ambition, and self-esteem. However, sometimes just being a good role model yourself is not enough. For instance, if you’re a single parent you may seek out role models for your child. Boys need strong male role models who can show them how to express their feelings and act gentlemanly. Girls need strong female role models who can help them to understand that they are capable of doing whatever they put their mind to. Youth mentoring programs are a great way to find these types of role models for your children. Read on to find out more.

What is Youth Mentoring?

Youth mentoring involves matching a kid or teen with an adult mentor, who sets an example as a well-adjusted and responsible adult. In most cases, mentors are neither related to the child nor do they know them before being matched. Mentors are usually volunteers for school-, community- or church-based organizations. The goal of mentoring programs is to improve the child’s academic, social, career, and personal outcomes. Of course, mentors also benefit from challenging themselves to help someone else. Mentoring can take a number of different forms and can focus on life skills, academic skills, career skills, or sports. When it comes to raising kids in a female-positive environment, the value of mentoring is in giving kids access to adults that can demonstrate feminist philosophies in action.

Mentoring for Boys

Boys who are raised by single mothers often have few examples of strong but gentle men in their lives. They may form their constructions of male identity based on movies, TV shows, and video games where men are not supposed to express their feelings or appear weak in any way. Unfortunately, this does not prepare young boys for success in their future relationships. Mentors for fatherless boys would ideally be men who can teach them how to be kind to all people.

Mentoring for Girls

Girls need women that they can look up to. Building self-esteem is something that can be difficult for girls in their teens with few female role models. Women who volunteer as mentors meet regularly with their mentees to support and encourage them to talk about what they are feeling and invest time in their passions. Mentors may also talk to girls about the images and roles of women in the media and what they mean. Difficult subjects, such as rape and sexual assault, may be discussed by a mentor and a mentee. The mentor may share her life experiences as well.

Effects

Research into the value of mentoring kids has shown that it is an effective way to encourage positive behaviors and attitudes. Youth with mentors are also 32% less likely to engage in violent behavior compared to youth without mentors. In addition, youth who have mentors are less likely to start taking alcohol or drugs. The effects of mentoring are more profound for minority youth, who may have access to fewer positive role models that they identify with. Youth who are mentored are also less likely to show symptoms of depression.